Social media is the message for employers

Ashley Nelson

Professor of practice Ashley Nelson, center, developed a course in social media to help give students an edge in the job market.

Like a lot of recent graduates, Matt Wesson (BSM ’11) talked up his experience using social media when he was interviewing for jobs, but Wesson had something most other candidates lacked: Business school training.

Wesson was a student in MCOM Social Media, the Freeman School’s first course dedicated to the use of social media in a business context. According to Wesson, the class helped give him an edge with recruiters when he was interviewing for a job with an Atlanta software company.

“I think what really sold them was that the course attacked social media from all angles, and that’s something companies are starting to realize,” says Wesson, a marketing, management and psychology major from Milwaukee. “Social media is not for one specific thing. It’s to solve problems.”

That message is at the heart of management communication instructor Ashley Keller Nelson’s course, which emphasizes the communication skills required to use the latest social media platforms effectively. A longtime watcher of social media trends, Nelson (MBA ’98) developed the course after recognizing that social media skills had risen to the top of employers’ want lists and students needed those skills to compete in the changing business world.

“It’s all about jobs for graduating students and internships for juniors,” Nelson says. “This class enables students to have skills that graduates from the Ivy Leagues and other top business schools don’t have. When they’re competing for jobs, my social media students stand out.”

Currently, just a handful of business schools—including Stanford, Berkeley, Chicago and Harvard—offer courses on the use of social media.

Nelson’s course begins with writing for social media platforms and covers everything from blogging, social networks, and video and photo sharing to social media policy, strategy and evaluation. Nelson even discusses how students can use social media to create a personal brand for networking and developing employment opportunities. During the course, students were required to start a blog and use social media tools to drive traffic to it. They also collaborated with Tulane’s Web Communications Office and Innovative Learning Center to provide content for Foursquare, a location-based social network that the university plans to use as part of its admissions and public relations efforts.

While the undergraduate section focused exclusively on communications, Nelson plans to add an MBA section this fall that will emphasize strategy. As part of the Practice of Management module, the MBAs will develop social media strategies for clients in the first semester and the undergraduates will execute those strategies as part of their section the following semester.

While some may dismiss social media as a fad, the numbers don’t lie: Out of 45 students in the class, 14 were hired for social media internships as a result of the class and three seniors got full-time jobs.

“Those who are underestimating the power of social media are going to be very surprised,” Nelson says. “It’s not going away.”

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